• August 15, 2022
  • 18 5782, Av
  • פרשת עקב

Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?

Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?

One of the mitzvot which make the Jewish people distinctive is the mitzvah of mezuzah. Even non-Jews know that we put “little boxes” on our front doors. In the popular imagination the mezuzah is viewed as an an amulet or sort of “lucky charm” that Jews put on their doors to keep bad luck away. This is of course a trivialization of the mitzvah.

In the course of these shiurim Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman will go through the interpretations given by our sages to this mitzvah as well as the Halachot which govern it.

January 6, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 1
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In today’s shiur on Hilchot Mezuzah we saw the almost inevitable tension which exists between those who wish to popularize the Torah and those who wish to teach a more austere interpretation of the Torah.

The Torah is a demanding system of practices and beliefs. Those who live according to its precepts may of course find it rewarding, fulfilling and enriching, but to those who do not practice Judaism it understandingly comes across as a restrictive collection of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.” It follows that those individuals who wish to attract people to Judaism need to “market” the Torah, they need to demonstrate that the observance of the Torah’s commandments provide a benefit in this world as well as in the world to come. This may seem to the purists as a cheapening of the mitzvoth, but it is necessary nonetheless to explain the mitzvoth in this fashion in order to reach out to the wider population.

With this in mind we saw the story of Onkelos, the convert to Judaism who composed the definitive translation of the Torah which bears his name. Onkelos was related to a noble Roman family, and his pagan relatives sent teams of troops to bring him back to Rome. Onkelos engaged each band of troops in conversation and converted them to Judaism. He converted the final group by pointing to his mezuzah as he left his house. He told the soldiers that normally the king sits at home while his guards are outside protecting him. This he says is not the case for Jews. We stay indoors and our King is outside protecting us. This story is one of many which portray the mezuzah as providing protection for the home.

In a more Halachically oriented passage the Gemarah tells us that the mezuzah needs to be placed in the entrance to the house, close to the street. Why does the mezuzah need to be placed close to the street? The Gemarah gives two reasons. One reason is that the mezuzah should be the first thing that we encounter when we enter our homes. The second reason is that by placing the mezuzah at the outermost part of the house we ensure that the entire house is protected by the mezuah.

Do the two reasons for the placement of the mezuzah at the entrance to the house reflect different interpretations of the mitzvah? Does the first explanation reject the idea that the mezuzah is a sort of Divine security system?

There is a remarkable disagreement between two of the most important Halachic authorities about this issue. The two authorities are the Rambam and the lesser known but no less significant Rabbeinu Eliezer, author of the ספר היראים.

This is what the Rambam writes about the mezuzah:

 

רמב”ם הלכות תפילין ומזוזה וספר תורה פרק ה הלכה ד

מנהג פשוט שכותבים על המזוזה מבחוץ כנגד הריוח שבין פרשה לפרשה שדי ואין בזה הפסד לפי שהוא מבחוץ, אבל אלו שכותבין מבפנים שמות המלאכים או שמות קדושים או פסוק או חותמות הרי הן בכלל מי שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא, שאלו הטפשים לא די להם שבטלו המצוה אלא שעשו מצוה גדולה שהיא יחוד השם של הקדוש ברוך הוא ואהבתו ועבודתו כאילו הוא קמיע של הניית עצמן כמו שעלה על לבם הסכל שזהו דבר המהנה בהבלי העולם.

In the days of the Rambam there was a widespread custom to write inside the mezuzah mystical symbols in order to give the mezuzah additional ability to protect the house. This custom is recorded in the Sefer Yereim. The Sefer Yereim is a Halachic work written by one of the great Tosafists, Rabbeinu Eliezer of Metz.[1] The Rambam attacks this custom as making a mockery of a mitzvah which is meant to demonstrate our belief in Hashem and turning it into a mere household appliance.

This what the Sefer Yereim[2] writes:

ספר יראים סימן ת [דפוס ישן – יח]

 

ולבד ההלכות של מסכת מנחות האמורות במזוזה הורגלו העולם לתוספת שמירת הבית לכתוב בסוף השורות חותמות ושמות כל [של] מלאכים ואינם עכובא אף לא מצוה אלא תוספת שמירה. וזו צורת המזוזה וחותמיה

So here we have a clear disagreement between two of the greatest authorities in the realm of Halacha. What the Rambam forbids the Sefer Yereim permits.

Later authorities adopted an approach which accommodates both points of view. It is a fact that as far as the writing of mystical symbols inside the mezuzah is concerned the view of the Rambam prevailed. Anyone who looks at the diagrams of the Sefer Yereim is struck at how bizarre they appear. However the perception of the mezuzah as a mitzvah which protects the house is not dismissed by the Halachic authorities.

 

This what the Ba’al HaTurim[3] writes:

 

טור יורה דעה הלכות מזוזה סימן רפה

וכן דרשו חכמים ….וגדולה מזה שהבית נשמר על ידה כמו שדרשו בפסוק ה’ שומרך וגומר מלך ב”ו מבפנים ועבדיו שומרין אותו מבחוץ ואתם ישנין על מטתכם והקב”ה שומר אתכם מבחוץ וע”כ נתינתה בטפח החיצון שיהא כל הבית לפנים הימנה ובשמירתה ומ”מ לא יהא כוונת המקיימה אלא לקיים מצות הבורא יתעלה שצונו עליה:

And this is what the Maharil[4] wrote in response to a question:

שו”ת מהרי”ל החדשות סימן קכג

 

ג עוד גם זה משמו מענין המזוזה.

 

ליתן מזוזה לגוי לשמור ביתו, ע”ד נוטה דאסור הוא. ולא מטעמא דידך שכתב הרמב”ם דהרי זה מדרכי מינות, דה”מ ישראל שעושה המצות ואינו עושה אותם לשמה. אבל גוי לא מפק’ ויכול לכוין שמירה. ואפי’ ישראל הנותנו לשמור אין זה מדרכי מינות דלא יהבנא ניהליה בתורת מצות מזוזה אלא באקראי בעלמא וה’ ודאי נטירותא היא לגבי ישראל. והרמב”ם לא פליג בהא כדאיתא בע”ז בעובדא דאונקלוס דאנח יד’ על מזוזה אמר להו מלך בשר ודם כו’. וה”נ איתא במנחות ומהאי טעמא חובת הדר היא כדפרש”י בכל דוכתין. וכן כתב הרא”ש דמהר”ם היה מבעתתו רוח רעה כשהיה ישן שנת צהרים בבית מדרשו עד דעבד לה מזוזה. וכן כת’ פרק במה מדליקין וכן כתב מהר”ם בתשובה דמרדכי שכל בית שמתוקן במזוזה כהלכתה שאין רשות למזיק ליכנס בו. וכאלה כתבו רז”ל ומהאי טעמא נמי עבדינן נקב נגד השם ומכונין לשמירה ודמי להא דאמרו חכמים ז”ל עשה הדברים לשם פעלם וסוף הכבוד לבא, ה”נ אנן עבדינן מצות בוראינו לשמה והמצות משמרות אותנו. וכן ארז”ל דמצוה להניח אטפח החיצון כי היכי דלינטרי לכולא ביתא וכן אמרו רבנן בתפילין הואיל ושרו רבנן לנטרי ודרי ליתרי ב”ה פ’ מי שמתו ואף כאן מינות. וחלילה אלא כוונת הרמב”ם ז”ל כדפי’ מי שאינו מכוין אלא לשמירה. וכעין זה עיון תפילה דמזכירין עוונותיו של אדם כמו שפי’ רבו’ ז”ל אלא הוא יכווין לשמי’ ויבטח שהקב”ה בחסדו ימלא בקשתו, וכן יבטח בשמירת מזוזה.

So while these Poskim acknowledged that by fulfilling the mitzvah of mezuzah we merit Hashem’s protection of our homes , this must not be our reason for putting mezuzot on our doors. The only reason for performing this or any other mitzvah must simply be our willingness to obey Hashem’s commandments.

Thanks to everyone who attended the shiur. Stuart Fischman

[1] I posted the page from the Sefer Yereim with the mystical symbols on the shiur’s web-page. Even though the Rambam was aware of this custom it is not clear that if he knew that the custom was approved of by so great an authority. I imagine that even if he had heard of the Ba’alei Tosafot he would not have approved of this practice.

[2] SEFER YERE’IM

  1. Eliezer ben R. Shmuel of Metz (Re’em) lived in France during the twelfth century. A Tosafist, he was a student of Rabbenu Tam and of Rabbenu Tam’s brother, Rashbam. R. Eliezer’s students rank among the most prominent Tosafists, and include such figures as Ra’avyah and R. Elazar, the author of the Rokeach. Re’em wrote a number of anthologies of Tosafot, and is cited many times in the writings of the Tosafists. In his later years he composed the Sefer Yere’im, which lists the mitzvot and deals with various aspects of their observance. This work is arranged in unique fashion: it is divided into seven “columns”, each of which is devoted to a certain set of mitzvot, with a chapter assigned to each mitzvah. The rabbinical commandments associated with each mitvah are called toladot (“offshoots”). The Yere’im was first printed in condensed, rearranged form in Venice, in 1565, from a version of the work apparently prepared by R. Binyamin, the brother of the author of the Shibbolei Ha-Leket. It was only in 1892 in Vilna that the Sefer Yere’im was published in its original form, accompanied by To’afot Re’em, a commentary by R. Abba Schiff. Since then photo-offset editions have been published many times. The text in the Responsa CD is based on the Vilna edition.

[3] TUR / ARBA’AH TURIM (“FOUR COLUMNS”)

  1. Jacob ben Asher was born in Cologne ca. 1269 and died in Toledo ca. 1343. In 1303 he fled with all of his family from Cologne to Barcelona. His main teacher was his father, R. Asher (Rosh), although R. Jacob also studied with his older brother, R. Yechiel. R. Jacob began to prepare a collection of his father’s responsa during the latter’s lifetime. He also prepared an abbreviated version of his father’s great halachic compendium, Piskei Ha-Rosh. This work, Kitzur Piskei Ha-Rosh, is printed after the relevant tractates in standard editions of the Talmud. R. Jacob also wrote a commentary on the Torah; the commentary consists of two parts: The first has gematriyot and brief sermonic, aggadic explanations according to the Massoretic notes and this part is found in most editions of the Mikra’ot Gedolot editions of the Pentateuch under then name Ba’al haTurim. The Project contains the new and corrected edition by R. Dr. Jacob Koppel Reinitz, Jerusalem, 1993. The second part is an extensive commentary. Likewise, he penned a singular ethical will, as well as other compilations.
  2. Jacob’s magnum opus was the Tur, a halachic compendium which encompasses all aspects of Jewish law currently practiced. The Tur is arranged topically and consists of four parts: (1) Orach Chayim, on the laws of prayer, Sabbath and festivals; (2) Yoreh Deah, on a variety of laws, including the laws of kashruth, family purity, and mourning; (3) Even Ha-Ezer, on the laws of marriage and divorce; and (4) Choshen Mishpat, on civil, criminal, and procedural law.

The rulings in the Tur are based on the Talmud and earlier halachic authorities, especially Maimonides, R. Asher (Rosh), and Tosafot. Yoreh Deah is based largely on Rashba’s Torat Ha-Bayit, while Choshen Mishpat is based largely on Sefer Ha-Terumot by R. Shmuel Ha-Sardi, a disciple of Nahmanides (Ramban). The Tur combines the analytical approach to Torah study practiced by the Tosafists with the characteristically Sephardic emphasis on structure and organization in the study of Jewish law. R. Jacob’s legal decisions usually follow those of his father, R. Asher.

The Tur rapidly gained widespread acceptance. R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, wrote an important commentary on the Tur, called Beit Yosef. Likewise, R. Yosef Karo arranged the Shulchan Aruch according to the chapter arrangement of the Tur. Thus, the structure of the Tur exerted decisive influence, which is palpable to this very day, on the study of Jewish law.

[4] MAHARIL, MAHARIL HACHADASHOT

Maharil (Rabbi Jacob ben Moses Moellin) was born in Mainz, Germany, ca. 1360, but studied in Austria. He founded a yeshivah in Mainz in 1387 after his father’s death, and soon became recognized as the spiritual leader of Ashkenazic Jewry. His students, too, were noted as outstanding rabbis. Halachic questions were sent to him from throughout Europe. Maharil was active in communal affairs and charities, and indeed his leadership was sorely needed during his times, a difficult period due to the Hussite wars. Maharil served as a cantor, and many of the melodies attributed to him were used in Mainz till modern times. Maharil’s customs and decisions serve as a major source for Ashkenazic halachic practice to this very day. Maharil’s works include a responsa collection and a book including his customs, decisions and interpretations (Minhagei Maharil). Maharil died in Worms in 1427.

[S1]These symbols do not appear in the Bar-Ilan resonsa data base but can be found in the Vilna edition of  Sefer Yere’im which can be found at the Hebrewbookks.org web-site

January 13, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 2
Class description

Hello Everyone,

Today we began a discussion of the halachot of mezuzah. The discussion began with what sort of rooms need to have a mezuzah. The תורה  says

דברים פרק ו

(ט) וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ:

If the word “ביתך”  literally means “your house” then perhaps only houses would need מזוזות, or perhaps one mezuzah on the front door of the house would suffice and none of the other rooms of the house would need mezuzot. This is where the Oral Law, the תורה שבעל פה plays its role of providing the interpretation of the Written Law. The word בית  means any room used for one’s daily needs. Storehouses for grain and oil as well as chicken-coops require a mezuzah according to the Sifrei which is an ancient collection of Halachot organized according to the פרשיות of the Torah. The Sifrei does exclude however rooms where dirt is allowed to accumulate or people walk around unclothed since  those rooms are incompatible with the holiness of the mezuzah scroll.

So the “simple” halacha is that with certain exceptions, all the rooms in a house need a mezuzah. Surprisingly, this was not the custom among Ashkenazic Jewry. The Maharil ( who was the pre-eminent authority in 14th century Askenazi Europe) was asked by someone if it would be “showing off” to affix mezuzot to all the doors in his house. Maharil replied that far from being “showing off” putting mezuzot on all the doors is the fulfillment of the mitzvah. Maharil cites the example of Maharam of Rottenberg who had 24 mezuzot in his home. Maharil does not understand why Ashkenazic Jewry does not follow the Halacha. He suggests that people error on the side of caution with regard to treating the mezuzah as a holy object. As we saw in the Sifrei, mezuzot should not be placed in rooms which are incompatible with the sanctity of the mezuzah. In medieval Europe many people had no designated rooms for bathing or for cleaning infants. This being the case every room was a potential bathroom. Likewise there were authorities who felt that mezuzot should not be placed in bedrooms where husbands sleep with their wives since the act of intercourse is incompatible with the sanctity of the mezuzah. Maharil held that none of these opinions are authoritative and do not excuse people from putting up mezuzot on every door of the house (other than actual bathrooms).

The ruling in Shulchan Aruch follows the opinion of Maharil. In rooms where there is dirt the mezuzah should enclosed in a case.[1]

 

 

שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות מזוזה סימן רפו סעיף ה

 

במקום שיש טינוף, כגון שתינוקות מצויים שם, טוב לכסות המזוזה; ובמקום טהרה, טוב להיות נראית.

ט”ז יורה דעה סימן רפו ס”ק ה

 

(ה) טוב להיות נראית. – נראה לי דאין לעשות שתהיה נראה בלי כיסוי כלל דנמשך מזה עבירה דבכל פעם שממשמשין בה בכניסה ויציאה מוחק מעט משם שדי עד שנמחק לגמרי אחר זמן רב כמו שאנו רואין ברוב בתים אלא יכניס שם חתיכת זכוכית ממילא יהי’ השם נראה ….

The Rema writes emphatically that mezuzot need to be placed on every room of the house which requires a mezuzah:

שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות מזוזה סימן רפז סעיף ב

המנהג נתפשט במדינות אלו דרוב עולם סומכין על מזוזה אחת שעושין על פתח בתיהם, ואינו נכון, ואין להם על מה שיסמוכו, לכן כל ירא שמים יתקן ביתו כדינו בכל הפתחים החייבים, וכמו שנתבאר

Surprisingly, one generation after  the Rema the commentator, Rav Yoel Sirkes zt”l[2] (known as the Bach) writes somewhat ambivalently about putting mezuzot on all the doors of the house. He writes that “recently” aspiring scholars have begun to put mezuzot on all the doors in their homes. The Bach sided with the older Ashkenazi custom of not putting mezuzot in rooms where inappropriate activity may occur. However the custom among Ashkenazi Jewry has as we know been to follow the Maharil and Rema.

The next subject that we studied was the size of the room which needs a mezuzah. The Gemarah says that a room must be 4 amot by 4 amot (approximately 8×8 feet) to require a mezuzah. This is the ruling in Shulchan Aruch. This would seem to exclude small rooms and closets from the mitzvah of mezuzah.

There is a an opinion which limits the application of this exception. The Chamudei Daniel (an 18th century authority)[3] writes that small rooms whose dimensions are adequate for their purposes need a mezuzah. According to this opinion small closets, foyers and the like need a mezuzah.

What is the Halacha? Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenefeld zt”l who was the rabbi of the Eidah Hachareidit in the early 20th century wrote that the Halacha does not follow the Chamudei Daniel.  The ruling of the Chamudei Daniel is a great chiddush, and since no earlier authority proposed this idea[4] it simply does not reflect the Halacha. Nonetheless other Poskim do endorse putting up mezuzot on small rooms.

The Shevet Halevi was asked several questions about small rooms.

First he was asked on which side of the doorway should the mezuzah be placed. Normally, the mezuzah is placed on the right-hand side of the doorway as one enters the room. However a small room is not inherently obligated to have the mezuzah (except for the opinion of the Chamudei Daniel). For the laws of mezuzah the small room does not exist and the doorway between the small room and the large room is treated as the entrance the large room and the mezuzah goes on the right side as one enters the large room.

Next he was asked, how do we determine where to put the mezuzah in a doorway which connects two rooms? He answered that if there is no door then we look at the traffic flow (if most of the usage is going from room A into room B then then the mezuzah is attached to the right-hand side entering B). If there is no distinct traffic flow then the mezuzah can be placed on either doorpost.[5]

Finally the Shevet Halevi was asked about putting a mezuzah in a small laundry room where baby’s clothing is stored until being washed. The Shevet Halevi replied that since the room is less than 4×4 amot and since dirty clothes are being stored there the room does not need a mezuzah.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Stuart Fischman

[1] If the case can be transparent or needs to be opaque is debated by commentators to the Shulchan aruch.

[2] BACH

Rabbi Joel Sirkes was born in Poland in 1561, and died there in 1640. A leading halachic authority in the generation after Rema, Sirkes is renowned for his commentary on the Tur, the Bayit Chadash, also known by its acronym, Bach (“new house”). This work cites new material on the Tur which was not included in R. Joseph Caro’s commentary on the Tur (Bet Yosef). Sirkes also authored textual notes on the Talmud (Hagahot Ha-Bach) and many responsa. His son-in-law was Rabbi David ben Samuel Halevi, who wrote an important commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (the Taz).

[3] http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%93%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%90%D7%9C_%D7%9E%D7%94%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%93%D7%A0%D7%94

[4] Despite small closets and rooms having been in existence for a very long time

[5] We will study this subject in greater detail later, bli neder.

January 20, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 3
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In today’s shiur on Hilchot Mezuzah we continued the discussion about whether and where to affix mezuzot in closets and then discussed the same questions with regard to elevators (which the English, I have been told, call “lifts”).

Last week we saw that the Shulchan Aruch rules that only when a room measures 4 amot by 4 amot (approximately 8  feet by 8 feet) does it require a mezuzah. The חמודי דניאל however ruled that these minimum dimensions are not required if a smaller space is used to fill a particular need and it does so in that smaller space. So if there is a small room in a house which is used to store clothes, food or a sump pump[1] then according to the חמודי דניאל this small room requires a mezuzah.

The question is where to put the mezuzah. Last week we saw that the שבט הלוי holds that the mezuzah should be affixed to the doorpost which is to the right of the person leaving the small room and entering the larger room. This is because he feels that the small room is not considered sufficiently significant to require a mezuzah of “its own.” The small room’s doorway is however an entrance-way to the larger room and so the mezuzah needs to be to the right of the person as he enters the larger room.

Today we saw the Minchat Yitzchak who disagrees with this position. The Minchat Yitzchak holds that since the חמודי דניאל  ruled that small rooms which perform a necessary function are significant then the doorways at their entrance are also significant. The Minchat Yitzchak therefore says that the mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of a small room should be on the right side of the person entering the small room.

There is no consensus as to whether the Halacha is like the  שבט הלויor the מנחת יצחק and in case there is a question as to what to do one should ask his or her local rabbi to determine  the local custom.[2]

The next subject which we discussed was whether elevators  require a mezuzah (and where they would be affixed).

We saw four opinions.

1) The late Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rav Chaim  David Halevi zt”l ruled that elevators don’t need a mezuzah at all. Elevators are not rooms in the house, they are a means of conveyance like a car or a bus. This is also the opinion of the שו”ת בצל החכמה.

2) Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l held that essentially elevators do not require mezuzot. The elevator car itself is exempt since, as Rav Halevi noted, it is a device and not a room in the house. This being the case, if the elevators are located in a special part of a corridor behind doors, the doors to that area are also exempt from a mezuzah. However Rav Auerbach zt”l felt that since in our times elevators are essential, and the only practical way to reach an apartment on a high floor is by taking an elevator then the doorway leading from elevators to the corridor should have a mezuzah.

3) The next opinion which we saw was that of Rav Moshe Shternbuch shlita in his work תשובות והנהגות . He holds that elevators are the modern equivalent of stairways, and if the entrance to a stairway requires a מזוזה so should an elevator. He distinguishes between the doors of the elevator car itself and the doors to the elevator shaft which open and close. Rav Shternbuch doesn’t think that the doors of the elevator car require a mezuzah but the doors of the elevator shaft do require a mezuzah. He expresses surprise that more people do not follow this practice which he thinks is an obvious necessity.[3]

4) The fourth opinion is that of the Minchat Yitzchak. He held that following the theory of the חמודי דניאל the elevator car is a room which meets an essential need of those who dwell in the building and therefore it requires a mezuzah. However since not everyone accepts the theory of the חמודי דניאל it is sufficient to affix one mezuzah to the elevator car itself without placing a mezuzah on every floor of the building.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l ruled that there is no requirement to place a mezuzah on an elevator, but it is praiseworthy to affix one, without saying the ברכה.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the shiur today. I realize that the material is very technical and if anyone has questions please feel free to write to me at :

fish9999@gmail.com

Bye, Stuart Fischman

 

[1] Thanks to Ms. Schutz for this observation which is important for people who live in low-lying areas

[2]  This is what I was told by Rabbi Fink.

[3] Rav Shternbuch acknowledges that Rav Shtern in his  שו”ת בצל החכמהwrote that the elevator requires no mezuzah at all because the elevator car is not a “gateway” and since the doors to the shaft cannot be opened and closed at will they are not considered a “gateway” either. Rav Shternbuch rejects this analysis.

January 27, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 4
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In yesterday’s shiur we discussed the obligation to affix mezuzot in properties which are owned by partners or which are inhabited by tenants and not by the owners of the property.

The Torah expresses the mitzvah of mezuzah with these words:

דברים פרק ו

(ט) וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ:

The word “ביתך”  is in the singular possessive form, it means “your house.” In most cases the Gemarah leans from these expressions that the mitzvah in question needs to be performed via objects in the sole possession of the person perfroming the mitzvah. For example, the mitzvah of tzitzit is taught in this  פסוק:

דברים פרק כב

(יב) גְּדִלִים תַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עַל אַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת כְּסוּתְךָ אֲשֶׁר תְּכַסֶּה בָּהּ:

The word  כסותך in that verse is also written in the singular possessive form and the Gemarah learns from this that  tzitzit need to be placed only on garments owned by the person wearing them.

The Gemarah does not mention any דרשה of the word  ביתךwhich would teach that rental properties are exempt from מזוזה. There are however three passages in the Gemarah where this subject comes up:

1) תלמוד בבלי מסכת מנחות דף מד עמוד א

אמר רב יהודה טלית שאולה כל שלשים יום פטורה מן הציצית מיכן ואילך חייבת תניא נמי הכי הדר בפונדקי בא”י והשוכר בית בח”ל כל שלשים יום פטור מן המזוזה מיכן ואילך חייב אבל השוכר בית בא”י עושה מזוזה לאלתר משום יישוב דא”י

2) תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף קא עמוד ב

גמרא תנו רבנן המשכיר בית לחבירו משכיר חייב להעמיד לו דלתות לפתוח לו חלונות לחזק לו תקרה לסמוך לו קורה ושוכר חייב לעשות לו סולם לעשות לו מעקה לעשות לו מרזב ולהטיח את גגו בעו מיניה מרב ששת מזוזה על מי מזוזה האמר רב משרשיא מזוזה חובת הדר היא

3) תלמוד בבלי מסכת חולין דף קלה עמוד ב -קלו עמוד א

מזוזה אף על גב דכתיב ביתך דידך אין שותפות לא כתב רחמנא למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם ואלא ביתך למאי אתא לכדרבה דאמר רבה דרך ביאתך מן הימין

From the first two suggyaot we learn that the tenants of a rental property are responsible for affixing the mezuzot. The first passage is difficult since it says that tenants are only obligated to put up the mezuzot after 30 days,[1] and it is odd to say that the mitzvah of mezuzah has any sort of time parameter. The third passage teaches us that the word “ביתך”  does not come to teach (as is usually the case) that the mitzvah is only incumbent on the owner. Rather it teaches that the mezuzah is to be affixed to the doorpost on the right side of the entrance.

The Tosafot to masechet Menachot ( the first passage) elaborate on the obligation of tenants to put up mezuzot. Since the Gemarah compares tenants to people who borrow garments it would seem that the obligation of the tenant is a Rabbinic one,  similar to the obligation of the one who wears a borrowed garment. On the other hand the Gemarah (third passage) explicitly states that the word “ביתך”does not limit the mitzvah of mezuzah to an inhabitant who is the sole owner of the house. Therefore the obligation of tenants must be Torah-based. But if this is true, why then does the obligation only begin after 30 days?

The Tosafot propose two answers to this problem. The first answer is that tenants are obligated by the Torah to put up mezuzot. However, up to 30 days, the property is not considered a “dwelling.”   The second answer is that the obligation to put up mezuzot in a rental property is Rabbinic. And even though the Gemarah in Chullin does not learn from the word ביתך any such exclusion, the Tosafor point out that the word ביתך appears twice in the Torah; once in פרשת ואהבת  and again in פרשת והיה אם שמוע. The Gemarah learns from the first ביתך the idea of דרך ביאתך, and the second ביתך is free to teach the exclusion of rental properties from the מצוה דאורייתא.

It is unusual for a post-Talmudic authority to learn Halachot from verses of the Torah. Apparently the Tosafot were convinced of the validity of their דרשה  based on the frequency of similar drashot based on possessive noun forms.

The Tosafot don’t indicate which answer is the “authoritative” one. However both the Rosh and Ritva hold that the tenant’s obligation is Rabbinic and so does HaGaon Rabbi Akiva Eger zt”l.

Properties owned by partners require mezuzot. This is the ruling of the

Gemarah(passage 3). The Gemarahsays even though the Torah says that

mezuzot are to be affixed “ביתך”   (which means your house of which you are sole

owner) he Torah goes on to promise a blessing to those who have mezuzot

on their doors:

דברים פרק יא

 

(כא) לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם וִימֵי בְנֵיכֶם עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְיָ לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם לָתֵת לָהֶם כִּימֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם עַל הָאָרֶץ:

Partners need this bracha as much as sole proprietors.

The Rishonim ask if people who have non-Jewish partners need to put mezuzot on their property. The Mordechai writes that they do not, because the bracha of למען ירבו ימיכם  not apply to non-Jews. The Rashba says the property does require a mezuzah because the Jewish part-owner needs the bracha. The Shulchan Aruch rules like the Mordechai.

The Aruch Hashulchan makes an important point. He writes that the rule exempting tenants from mezuzah for thirty days refers to a case where the entire rental period was less than 30 days. However if someone enters into a rental agreement for a period longer than 30 days he needs to put up the mezuzot immediately. He writes that this is obvious and is the current practice.[2] Rabbi Akiva Eger zt”l also writes that one may be מחציר and put up the mezuzot with a bracha within the 30 period. On other hand, Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l was opposed to saying a bracha within thirty days of occupying a rental property. He agrees with the Poskim who hold that if a lease is signed for a period of 6 months or greater that the mezuzah should be put up immediately.  However since the consensus is that the obligation of a tenant is Rabbinic, and the Rabbis ruled that for the first 30 days there is no obligation we cannot say brachot during that 30 day interval[3].

Thanks to everyone who participated in the shiur.

Stuart Fischman

[1] Note that tenants in ארץ ישראל  need to put up their mezuzot immediately.

[2] The Aruch Hashulchan was writing in late 19th century Lithuania.

[3] שו”ת מנחת יצחק הוא פוסק שמי ששוכר לתקופה של יותר מל’ יום קובע מיד ובלי ברכה. בשו”ת שבט הלוי הפוסק שבקרה כזה יש לקבוע המזוזה מיד עם ברכה.

שו”ת מנחת יצחק חלק י סימן צב

 

וגם בספר דרכי חיים ושלו’ מהגה”ק ממונקאטש זצ”ל (סימן התקס”ד) ראיתי שכתב בזה”ל: מנהגו היה עוד מכ”ק אביו הגה”ק בעל דרכי תשובה כשהיה נוסע במקום מעיינות הרחצה ונצרך להתעכב שם יותר מל’ יום ולשכור אכסניא בבית נכרי, היה לוקח מזוזות מבית וקבע בכל דירתו שמה מיד בלא ברכה והאריך בעצמו בזה במנחת אלעזר ח”ה סי’ ל”א בכתי”ק.

 

שו”ת שבט הלוי חלק ו סימן קס

 

ואשר שאל בענין שוכר בית בחו”ל יותר משלשים יום אם יברך מיד – ור”ל אם יכול עכ”פ לקבוע ולברך מיד, או חייב אפילו לברך מיד, …..נראה דחייב ויכול עכ”פ לקבוע מיד בברכה, – ולא נעלמו ממני שיטת המקדש מעט ושאר פוסקים בזה.

February 3, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 5
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In yesterday’s shiur we studied the obligation to affix mezuzot in buildings other than homes. Specifically, is there an obligation to put mezuzot up in hospitals, jails, vacation homes, synagogues, בתי מדרש, and places of business.

The Torah obligates us to put up mezuzot in our homes- מזוזות ביתך. People can find themselves living (for varying lengths of time) in hospitals or prisons so perhaps these places require mezuzot. However, we saw last week that the consensus of the Poskim is that the מצוה דאורייתא of mezuzah only applies to a home which is owned by its inhabitant, so it follows that even if they are obligated to do so, the residents of hospitals and prisons would only have a דרבנן requirement to do so.

The ברכי יוסף  [1] quotes a work titled בית הלל  which ruled that prison inmates are exempt from putting mezuzot because prisons are not “.דירת כבוד”   מרן החיד”א disagrees with the בית הלל. It seems (so says מרן החיד”א) that the בית הלל understood the phrase  דירת כבודdenotes a dwelling whose residents are proud to be living there. This understanding is mistaken . דירת כבוד  in the Gemarah excludes only structures which are either dirty or otherwise physically difficult to live in. Prisons, according to מרן החיד”א do not fit into such a category and therefore require mezuzot.

מרן החיד”א mentions a different reason to exempt prisons ( and quarantine facilities) from mezuzah. Mezuzot are only placed on permanent dwellings. People (in the time מרן החיד”א  ) were imprisoned or held in quarantine for two months at the most. Therefore these dwellings are only temporary and therefore no mezuzot are needed.

In the notes to ברכי יוסף  the editor cites other reasons to exempt inmates and patients from mezuzah. First, these people don’t pay rent and the Gemarah only obligates tenants in mezuzah. Furthermore, inmates and patients can be moved from one room to another against their will, so the rooms (or cells) which they occupy are not their “homes.”

The שבט הלוי  was asked if a person who rents an apartment in Israel for a vacation must put up a mezuzah. The Halacha distinguishes between hotels (פונדק) and rental properties. In Israel rental properties require the immediate placement of  mezuzot while hotels only require mezuzot after 30 days of residence. The rabbi who wrote to שבט הלוי suggested this explanation for distinguishing between hotels and rentals. When people go away to a hotel it Is clear that they do not intend to live in that location permanently while people who rent homes to intend on making that location their home. It follows then that when a person rents an apartment for a summer vacation the apartment does not need a mezuzah.

The שבט הלוי  disagreed. He explained that the difference between residing in a hotel and residing in a rented home lies in the nature of the agreements between the guest/tenant and the management/landlord. When a person pays to stay in a hotel he is paying for the facilities provided by the hotel but he has no rights in the room which he is given. For example, a guest of the hotel certainly cannot paint the room or make any other changes to it. Also, the hotel maintains the right to move guests from one room to another if the need should arise.[2] On the other hand when a person rents a home he does have rights in it. He can make changes in the residence (though he needs to return the home at the end of the rental period in its original state). The landlord has no right to evict the tenant for the duration of the lease. Therefore, the שבט הלוי   writes, it makes no difference why a person rented the apartment with regard to the obligation to put up a mezuzah.

We next discussed the obligation to put up mezuzot in places of business. The Shulchan Aruch rules that shops do not need mezuzot. The standard commentators to the Shulchan Aruch ( the Shach and Taz) accept this ruling. They explain that since shopkeepers go home at night it follows that shops are at most temporary accommodations (דירת עראי) and as such do not need mezuzot.

Interestingly the common practice is to be more strict than the Shulchan Aruch in this case. Anyone who visits a Jewish neighborhood will see mezuzot on the entrances to Jewish owned businesses. This practice originates with the commentary known as יד הקטנה  to the Rambam which is cited by the פתחי תשובה. The יד הקטנה wonders why shops are exempt from mezuzot. Even if the storekeepers do leave the premises at night, they store their merchandise in the shops so the shops should have the status of storehouses which require mezuzot. The יד הקטנה thinks that when the Shulchan Aruch exempts shops from mezuzot it is referring to stalls in fairs which are dismantled at the conclusion of the fairs. The later Poskim adopted the view of the יד הקטנה and this has become the common practice.

If we accept the יד הקטנה  as being authoritative we can understand the ruling of Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l regarding mezuzot in hospitals.[3]  Since the hospital is in continuous use even if only for the storage of medicines, and since the staff members eat meals there the hospital requires mezuzot. Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l mentions the opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan that permanent structures whose residents do not stay longer than 30 days require mezuzot.

We ended the shiur with the status of synagogues and בתי מדרש. Synagogues are exempt from mezuzot unless they contain an apartment for a caretaker. The Halacha regarding  בתי מדרש is more complex. The Rambam holds that בתי מדרש are exempt as are synagogues because they are sacred structures and not “homes.” However there is an opinion in the Yerushalmi that בתי מדרש  require mezuzot, and the commentators say that this is because the students spend the entire day in the בתי מדרש (and the יד הקטנה cited this as a reason to require mezuzot in shops). The Shulchan Aruch rules that בתי מדרש  should have mezuzot but they should be affixed without a נרכה being said.

Thanks to everyone who attended the shiur. Stuart Fischman

[1] BIRKEI YOSEF

Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai (Chida), descendant of a famed rabbinic family originating from Castille and Moroco, was born in 1724 in Jerusalem. Chida was considered the greatest halachic authority of his generation by the oriental and Italian Jews. His huge, multifaceted literary output included halachic rulings, mystical works, commentaries on the Bible and Talmud, a commentary on Sefer Chasidim called Binyan Olam, bibliography, and travelogues. He was involved in communal activities, and also served in rabbinical positions. Chida traveled extensively to raise funds for the Jewish community in Israel, and in the course of his travels he visited such places as Egypt, North Africa, and Europe. He became rabbi of Leghorn, Italy, and died there in 1806. In 1960, his remains were brought to Israel and interred in Jerusalem.

[2] I mentioned that this happened to me when the Czech Foreign Minister came to a hotel where I was staying with my family.

[3] It should be pointed out that Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l was writing about hospitals in Israel which are administered by Jews while the earlier Poskim such as ברכי יוסף were discussing the obligation of Jewsih patients to put up mezuzot in hospitals administered by non-Jews

February 10, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 6
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In yesterday’s shiur we studied the Halachot which describe the sort of entranceway which requires a מזוזה.  The mitzvah of mezuzah is stated in the Torah:

דברים פרק ו

(ט) וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ:

The Torah describes entranceways in the context of the קרבן פסח brought in Egypt when we were commanded to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on our doorways:

שמות פרק יב

 

(ז) וְלָקְחוּ מִן הַדָּם וְנָתְנוּ עַל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת וְעַל הַמַּשְׁקוֹף עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר יֹאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ בָּהֶם:

 

So the word “מזוזה ” has two definitions:

  1. a) doorposts
  2. b) the parchment which we attach to our doorposts.

The Rambam lists ten requirements which a structure must meet in order to require mezuzot, and he writes that if only one of these requirements are not met then no mezuzot are needed. Yesterday we discussed three of the Rambam’s requirements:

  1. a) the entrance must have a door
  2. b) it must have a lintel
  3. c) it must have doorposts.

Not all early authorities agreed with the Rambam and these disagreements are reflected in the Halacha.

The Gemarah tells the story that the when the  Exilarch was building his new home he told Rav Nachman to put up the mezuzot. Rav Nachman replied, ” תלי דשי ברישא” and then he would put up the מזוזות. What did Rav Nachman mean? These are the primary interpretations:

1) Rashi says that Rav Nachman told the Exilarch that first the doorposts need to be put up and only afterwards can he put up the mezuzot. The Exilarch wanted Rav Nachman to put the mezuzot on the doorposts and afterwards the builders would attach the doorposts (along with their mezuzot) to the building. This is not a valid way to fulfill the mitzvah. The mitzvah can only be fulfilled when there is an obligation. Since the obligation to put up mezuzot only occurs when the building has doorposts the mezuzot may not be attached with the doorposts.

  1. b) The Tosafot say that Rav Nachman asked that the doors be put up first so that there would be a היכר ציר. The Halacha requires that mezuzot be affixed on the right-hand side of the doorway as one enters the room. The question arises in cases where the doorway is located between two rooms, which is the right-hand side? So the Halacha says that we look at the structure of the door. Since doors swing inward the pivot upon which the door swings is “inside.” This pivot is known as היכר ציר. In the Exilarch’s house the traffic flow was equal between the two rooms so the only way to determine “right” (as opposed to “left”) would be by locating the היכר ציר.
  2. c) The Rosh thought that the Rambam learned his requirement that the doorway have doors from the story of Rav Nachman and he wrote that he does not understand why the Rambam interpreted the word “דשי” as “doors.” He rejected the Rambam’s ruling on this matter.

The Rambam was asked by the sages of Lunel in southern France why he ruled that entrances  without doors do not need mezuzot. He replied that he thinks that the word שער (as in ןבשעריך) means doorway. He writes that this is obvious, especially since an opening in a building which lacks a door is called “פתח” and not שער.

The Shulcahn Aruch quotes both the Rosh and Rambam. The Shach writes that mezuzot should be affixed even if there are no doors, but no bracha should be said when affixing them. If possible, one should say the bracha when affixing the mezuzah to a doorway which has a door and the person should intend that the ברכה apply to the doorways which have no doors.

With regard to the necessity of having a משקוף/lintel there are two opinions. The Shulchan Aruch simply states that only doorways with two doorposts and a lintel need a mezuzah. The question asked by the Poskim is whether the ceiling of a room can be considered to be a lintel. Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l held that the ceiling can be considered to be a lintel while Rav Wosner שליט”א  holds that a doorway without a lintel is totally exempt. In the work שערי המזוזהthe author writes that a ceiling serves as a משקוף only when the edge of the ceiling lies above the door posts. However if the ceiling extends past the doorposts it cannot be viewed as a lintel and no mezuzah is needed.

Finally we began a discussion of doorposts. We saw that there is a need to distinguish between doorposts (which are structural elements whose purpose is to support a door) and pillars (which are structural elements whose purpose is to support a ceiling or roof).

The Shulchan Aruch writes:

שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות מזוזה סימן רפו סעיף ו

אכסדרה, והוא המקום שיש לו ג’ כתלים ותקרה, אף על פי שיש לה שני פצימין ברוח רביעית, פטורה, מפני שהפצימין[1] להעמיד התקרה הם עשויים ולא משום מזוזות (ל’ הרמב”ם פ”ו מהס”ת ד”ג). אבל אם יש לה מחיצה גם ברוח הרביעית, אף על פי שהיא נמוכה או שעשויה חלונות חלונות, חייבת.

So not all vertical elements are “.מזוזות”  Many homes have porches in front of them and these porches are completely open from in front. It follows then that if the vertical elements found there were designed to hold up the roof these elements are not doorposts and mezuzot are not needed there.[2] However, some  Poskim point out that even if these porches have no inherent requirement for mezuzot they may  need mezuzot since they are entrances to the home[3]. Therefore they advise to affix mezuzot without a bracha.

Thanks to everyone who attended the shiur. Stuart Fischman

[1] פצימין  are vertical structural elements.

[2]  With regard to these porches one would need to check if there is a משקוף above the pillars.

[3] And therefore have the status of בית שער

February 17, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 7
Class description

Hello Everyone,

First I would like to extend on behalf of the shiur and the entire WebYeshiva family our condolences to Ms. Bracha Schutz on the loss of her husband.

המקום ינחם אותך בתוך שאר אבלי ציון בירושלים

In yesterday’s shiur we discussed various types of passageways and the obligation to affix mezuzot to them. We studied three types of doorways.

1) Passages which lack doorposts. Many passageways which  open into rooms lack doorposts. We saw that the Rambam writes that for an opening to require a mezuzah it needs two doorposts, a lintel and a door. The Rosh holds that the edges of the  two walls at the entranceway[1] fulfill the role of doorposts and so the entrance requires a mezuzah. The Halacha is to follow the Rosh and affix a mezuzah to a passage which has no doorposts but we don’t say a bracha when putting up a mezuzah in that case since the Rambam says no mezuzah is need in such a case. We saw in the work חובות הדר  that when we are discussing rooms inside a house then we need to look at the layout of the room. If we are discussing the entrance to a “breakfast nook” which lacks doorposts then no mezuzah is needed. However if we are discussing an entrance foyer which lacks doorposts then a mezuzah needs to be attached to the right-side wall as one enters the home via the foyer.[2]

A second issue related to passageways without doorposts is often found in kitchens. In many kitchens there is a counter at the entrance. This counter demarcates the entrance into the kitchen and is a barrier between the entranceway and the actual doorpost.[3] In such a case the “doorpost”  is the counter and the mezuzah needs to be attached to it and not to the doorpost since the doorpost is no longer part of the entranceway.

2) Folding and collapsing doors. Folding doors and collapsing (“accordion”) doors are both usually mounted in frames and need mezuzot. The problem of these doors is that when they are folded or collapsed  as they are opened they occupy space and often create a barrier[4] of more than one טפח [5] between the doorpost and the entranceway. There are some authorities who say that in such a case the doorway fails to meet the requirements for a mezuzah and none is needed. Other authorities feel that the presence of the a “barrier” in the form of the collapsed door is not an issue and the mezuzah can be placed on the doorpost. Other authorities say that in such a case a board needs to be erected at the place where the door is collapsed and the mezuah should be affixed to that board which serves as the doorpost for the entrance.

3) Doors with metal frames. Doors with metal frames pose a special problem. The mezuzah needs to be placed on the inner surface of the doorpost which is to the right of the person entering the room. Metal doors are not normally hung within wooden doorframes. Rather they are mounted on metal frames which lack the depth of wooden frames. Metal doors are usually flush with their frames and therefore there is no inner surface in the frame where a mezuzah can be placed.[6] There are several opinions as to where to put the mezuzah in such a case. Some authorities permit affixing the mezuzah to the outer surface of the doorframe. Other authorities suggest making a hole on the inner surface of the frame and inserting the mezuzah into the hole (in such a way that the mezuzah will not interfere with the closing of the door). Other authorities suggest building a new frame which will provide the depth needed to affix the mezuah on its inner surface.

We saw an important idea in a teshuvah from  Rav Moshe Shternbuch שליט”א with regard to mezuzot and these questions. When people buy homes they pay a lot of attention to esthetics and they spend large sums of money on designers in order to tailor their homes to their tastes. Rav Shternbuch says that people should pay a similar amount of attention to designing their doorways so that they should not find themselves in the position of not being able to fulfill the mitzvah of mezuzah as it should be performed.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the shiur, Stuart Fischman

[1] See scan 4 in the handouts of the shiur’s web-page

[2] See “scan 5” in the handouts list in the shiur web-page

[3] see the illustration “scan 15” in the handouts list for the shiur

[4] See the illustration labelled “folding doors” in the handouts list.

[5] One טפח equals 8 or 9.6 cm depending on whom you ask.

[6] See scan 11 (ציור28) and the photos labelled “problem door 1” and “problem door 2.”

February 24, 2015 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Are Mezzuzot Lucky Charms?: Lesson 8
Class description

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday was the final shiur in our series of classes on Hilchot Mezuzah and we discussed several questions that commonly arise when we people move from one house to another.

The first question was what to do when you move into a house which has old mezuzot which cannot be removed. This happens when the previous owners painted over the mezuzot several times, so all you can see a vague sort of lump on the doorpost.[1] Painting over a mezuzah is of course a bad idea since the paint may penetrate the case and invalidate the mezuzah. However there is no certainty that the paint actually did penetrate through the case and affect the parchment. Since this is so if the new tenant was to attach a new, kosher mezuzah to the doorpost without removing the old mezuzah he or she would be violating the prohibition of בל תוסיף. This is a prohibition against performing a mitzvah in a way not sanctioned by the Torah. The Halacha tells us to put only one mezuzah on each doorpost. When a person puts two mezuzot on a doorpost this is an עבירה. What should be done is to remove the old mezuzah before putting up a new mezuzah. However when the mezuzah is lying beneath several coats of paint removing it would involve gouging it out of the doorpost which would necessitate an expensive repair of the doorpost.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was asked if it would be possible to affix the new mezuzah with the intention that the old mezuzah should not be the mezuzah with which the homeowner fulfills the mitzvah. There are cases where a person can have “negative intention” with regard to mitzvoth, but in this case Rav Feinstein explained “negative intention” is not sufficient and the old mezuzah must be removed.

The next subject which we discussed was the halacha which requires a tenant (or  seller) to leave the mezuzot behind when they leaving the apartment. This is an absolute requirement of the Halacha. The owner of the mezuzot may ask the new tenant to pay for the mezuzot  but if he refuses the owner of the mezuzot must still leave them behind[2] and the new tenant is considered a thief. An exception to this rule is if the new tenant will be a non-Jew (or a Jew who will not treat the mezuzot with appropriate respect). In such a case the mezuzot must be removed. Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked what to do if the tenant leaving the apartment does not know who the new tenant will be. Rav Feinstein replied that this would depend on the landlady. If she is a person who respects the Halacha then the tenant should leave the mezuzot up and he can rely on the landlady to treat them appropriately. However if the landlady is not observant then the tenant should take the mezuzot down since they may be desecrated by the new tenants.

The next question is whether it is permitted to switch valuable mezuzot for less valuable (though kosher) mezuzot when one moves out of an apartment. Mezuzot are of course hand-written and some scribes are undeniably more talented and/or pious than others so there are mezuzot which are quite literally priceless. Rav Weiss zt”l in the מנחת יצחק ruled that when the owner of the mezuzot does not wish to leave them behind because they are irreplaceable he may remove them and put up different mezuzot in their place.

Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked about a similar problem. He replied that one can rely on the ruling of the great sage, Rav Henkin zt”l[3] Rav Henkin noted that in New York the practice was[4] that the landlord would paint the apartment before a new tenant moved in. Since this is the case the owner of the mezuzot must remove the mezuzot prior to moving out. Later, if the new tenant would ask for mezuzot from the former tenant the former tenant will be in a stronger position to ask for payment.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the shiurim. I apologize for the technical problem yesterday which caused my computer to leave the shiur (Tehila Leah suggested that I has too many windows open, someone else suggested that my hard-drive is collapsing). I enjoyed the shiurim and I hope you did as well. I welcome any suggestions for a new subject to study after Pesach. Have a happy Purim, Stuart Fischman

[1] People are usually  are shown mezuzot like this when they go on “Jewish Heritage Tours” of formerly Jewish neighborhoods.

[2] This is the opinion of most of the Poskim that I have seen. The שו”ת חלקת יעקב , יו”ד סימן ק”ס    holds that if the new tenant refuses to pay for the mezuzot the owner of the mezuzot may rely on the lenient views which permit taking the mezuzot down.

[3] Rav Henkin zt”l was a renowned sage who was one of the foremost Poskim in the middle of the 20th century. He was the director of the charitable foundation Ezras Torah.

[4] I don’t know if this is the practice in other places as well or even if this remains the common practice in New York.

Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.